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Immediate Release

Secretary of Defense Austin Announces Immediate Actions to Counter Extremism in the Military and the Establishment of the Countering Extremism Working Group

Today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III issued a memorandum announcing the Immediate Actions to Counter Extremism in the Department and the Establishment of the Countering Extremism Working Group (CEWG).

The immediate actions are as follows:

  • Review and Update of DODI 1325.06 Extremism Definition: Office of the Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness) and the Office of the General Counsel (OGC) will review and update DODI 1325.06 to more specifically define what constitutes extremist behavior.
  • Updating the Service Member Transition Checklist: The military departments will add provisions to their service member transition checklists that include training on potential targeting of service members by extremist groups and work with other federal departments agencies to create a mechanism by which veterans have the opportunity to report any potential contact with an extremist group should they chose to do so.
  • Review and Standardization of Screening Questionnaires: All military departments to update and standardize screening questionnaires to solicit specific information about current or previous extremist behavior.
  • Commission of Extremism Study: The Department will commission a study on extremist behavior within our Total Force, to include gaining greater fidelity on the scope of the problem.

Led by Bishop Garrison, Senior Advisor to the Secretary of Defense on Human Capital and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, the CEWG will oversee the implementation of immediate actions as well as the development of mid-term and long-term recommendations for the continued engagement of this issue. The CEWG will report through the Workforce Management Group (WMG) to the Deputy's Workforce Council (DWC).

The CEWG will pursue four initial Lines of Effort (LOEs) within subcommittees that receive information from both internal and external Subject Matter Experts as well as coordination and input from the interagency.

The Lines of Effort are as follows:

  • Line of Effort 1: Military Justice and Policy. This LOE will focus on the role of military justice and policy. It will evaluate whether seeking to amend the Uniformed Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) or amending related department policy is appropriate in order to address extremism. This LOE will determine if regulations are sufficient or should be expanded.
  • Line of Effort 2: Support and Oversight of Insider Threat Program. This LOE will determine how the Department should facilitate better information collection and sharing among Service Insider Threat Programs, law enforcement organizations, security organizations, and commanders and supervisors. This group will work to strengthen Insider Threat Programs and the Direct Awareness Campaign with the goal of promoting the use of the Insider Threat programs to report concerning behaviors for both military and civilian personnel.
  • Line of Effort 3: Screening Capability. This LOE will discuss the Department's pursuit of scalable and cost-effective capabilities to screen publically available electronic information in accessions and continuous vetting for national security positions. The LOE will make recommendations on further development of such capabilities and incorporating machine learning and natural language processing into social media screening platforms. This LOE will also endeavor to develop policy to expand user activity monitoring of both SIPR and NIPR systems. 
  • Line of Effort 4: Education & Training. This LOE will utilize the current extremist and Insider Threat training review being conducted by OUSD(P&R) and OUSD(I&S) and  examine existing training and make recommendations and updates to those trainings for different leadership levels and separate and discrete targeted audiences, as necessary. It will use lessons learned from the Stand Down to enhance current reviews of training and education. This LOE will also ensure training addresses issues raised by commanders and supervisors on “gray areas” such as reading, following, and liking extremist material and content in social media forums and platforms.

The memorandum for the Immediate Actions to Counter Extremism in the Department and the Establishment of the Extremism Working Group can be found here.